Negotiating Independence

By Edward Spalton.

This article first appeared in Freedom Today in spring 2014.

Whilst independence campaigners of other parties might prefer to use a different phrase, what they hope for is not far off the “amicable divorce” from the EU, advocated by Nigel Farage. Such a settlement will demand clear thinking, strenuous negotiation and unshakeable political will. Whilst many have a deep-seated loathing for our subjection to the EU, we should remember that it has taken nothing from us which was not freely surrendered by our governments of all colours, officials and parliament.

We should reserve our major suspicions for them and approach the institutions and personnel of the EU with steely objectivity and diplomatic courtesy.
To do that, it may be necessary to create an expert task force or “Department of Disentanglement” separate from the Foreign Office which, for two generations, has been stocked entirely with Europhiles.

The EU is an institution of laws – tens of thousands of them – but it will break even the most supposedly sacrosanct to secure its existence. When the euro was introduced, the treaty specified that no member state could ever be made responsible for the debts of another. Yet as soon as crisis struck, the principle was instantly jettisoned before any legal change had been made. We are dealing with an institution which is primarily one of political will, not law. The laws are invoked only in support of the project . So caution is essential and suspicion of Article 50 quite reasonable.

To achieve a new politically independent trading relationship with the EU countries, there are various considerations surrounding Article 50 .
Firstly, international law does not generally allow the existing or new internal constitutional requirements of contracting states as a valid reason for non performance of a previously agreed treaty. The article does. Secondly, the Article appears to be a lex specialis – an agreed provision of a treaty which therefore takes precedence over general rules such as the Vienna Convention. Thirdly, for an EU document it is remarkably straightforward , specifying a clear procedure, including an obligation to negotiate a future relationship within the not unreasonable period of two years.

It is unrealistic to expect that the member state which has given notice to leave should also be privy to the discussions within the EU institutions on the matter. You cannot expect to sit on both sides of the table at once. You cannot simultaneously be buyer and seller.
We will not be going like Oliver Twist to ask the President of the European Council, “Please Sir, may we have our country back?” and then waiting for two years to see what the EU offers. We must go with a well-prepared negotiating position of highly specific, reasonable requirements and keep the initiative at all times.

In extricating the country from foreign bureaucracy, we do have experience from history. The Acts of Praemunire prohibited English subjects from taking cases to foreign courts, Henry VIII ‘s Act of Supremacy and Act in Restraint of Appeals established beyond a peradventure that “The King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England and other his Dominions…. and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction”. It was not mere coincidence that these Acts were repealed or rendered dead letters in the run up to our accession to the EEC.

Acts of Parliament still derive their sovereign force from the prerogative power of the Crown in Parliament, “The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty”. There should be a comprehensive modern Act with the same effect and intent . Such an Act would be a deterrent against new EU Regulations or requirements being sprung on us during negotiation. It should also provide dissuasive penalties for anyone, particularly British officials, trying to circumvent it – though probably not quite the same ones as Henry VIII ‘ s !

Armed with such a safeguard at home, capable of being invoked if necessary, negotiations could proceed, more or less on an ex gratia basis, but in outward conformity to the Article – working, as it were, with the grain of the treaties. To tear up a treaty as a claimed sovereign right might be popular in the saloon bar but would not impress at the bar of any international tribunal or indeed overseas public opinion.

Like it or not, international trade is now regulated by myriad rules. Whilst many of them come from bodies like the United Nations or the World Trade Organisation, Britain is contracted to them through the EU because we outsourced our negotiating power to it. As businesses have spent huge sums of money to comply with these rules, they rightly need assurance that Britain’s new arrangements with the EU will not cause them any disruption or place British products and services in a position of dubious international acceptability or disadvantage. Our suppliers and international creditors need to have similar assurance that their interests will be respected and their investments safe. Such considerations are essential, if the divorce is to be amicable and the outcome prosperous.

To win any referendum against the inbuilt advantage of the status quo, people have to be convinced that there is an attractive, credible, working alternative which will secure their jobs. There is no doubt of that. Something like the Norway Option has great presentational advantages. It already exists prosperously. It would not be the end point. Just as the EU project moved from the Coal and Steel Community to the Treaty of Rome, so further advances towards fuller independence can be made from that platform. But we have to persuade people to take the first step.

Incompetence or treachery at home is more greatly to be feared than the EU. The Romans remarked that slaves came to love their chains . Our civil servants have become very comfortable in EU servitude and out of the habit of drafting primary legislation. The effects of a botched renegotiation, combined with adverse economic circumstances, could see a future government panicked into crawling back by invoking clause 5 of Article 50. Now that really is to be feared!

With grateful thanks to Lord Stoddart of Swindon and Petrina Holdsworth for political and legal advice. All mistakes are, of course, entirely the author’s ownEdward Spalton 20 May

A strategy for victory in a referendum – some more thoughts

You would have to be a remarkable optimist to believe that we could secure independence from the EU if a referendum were to be held in 2015. Those wishing us to stay in have plenty of money and plenty of supporters in corridors of power. Let’s face it, although the most vocal supporters of EU membership moan about “the eurosceptic press”, only the Daily Express has yet come out unequivocally in favour of withdrawal. A referendum in 2017 is winnable, but only by a well-run campaign with a well-thought out strategy

The first plank in any strategy must be to demolish any fig-leaf renegotiation which claims to be a major clawback of powers from Brussels but is, in reality, little more than window dressing. Unfortunately, the electorate may be vulnerable to the same tactics used by Harold Wilson in 1975. Few of the UK population are keen on the EU. Even fewer support the idea of a European superstate, but for many, independence is seen as too big a leap into the dark, especially if a renegotiated relationship within the EU is on offer. An opinion poll undertaken by YouGuv on 20th and 21st October confirms this. Given a choice between independence and the EU status quo, there would be a narrow vote in favour of independence. 42% would vote to leave and 36% to remain in the EU. However, if David Cameron secured ‘modest’ renegotiation, 44% would vote to remain and 36% to leave and if the renegotiation was ‘major’, 53% would vote in, and 23% to leave. Already one of the proposed targets of renegotiation, immigration restriction, has thankfully been shot down by both the old and new presidents of the European Commission along with Germany’s Angela Merkel. We mentioned José Manuel Barroso’s comments in a previous post http://campaignforanindependentbritain.org.uk/barroso-says/ Jean-Claude Juncker has followed suit a couple of days later, insisting that he is “not willing to compromise” on the issue of the freedom of movement of migrants within the European Union. Mrs Merkel indicated last weekend that Germany “would not tamper” with the principle of the free movement of workers. So one key item on our Prime Minister’s renegotiation agenda has already proved itself to be dead in the water before serious talking has even begun, but will this be sufficient to stop him trying to pull the wool over our eyes in some other area? Time will tell.

Another important point was made by Michael Fabricant, one of a number of Tory MPs who has come out openly in favour of withdrawal. In an article for the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/21/eu-outers-europe-without-britain ), he claimed that “angry-looking grey men” will never win an “out” campaign. Supporters of withdrawal will need to find younger, positive, articulate spokespersons who will be able to command widespread support. He has a good point. Let’s be clear – there is plenty for the electorate to be angry about. Disillusion with politicians is understandable. Frustration about immigration cannot be dismissed as “racism”. However, there are not sufficient Mr Angrys about to win the vote without support from elsewhere and there are plenty of voters who will not be won over to supporting withdrawal if it’s the Mr Angrys who are fronting the campaign.

And this leads on to the third point. Given the small size of the majority in support of withdrawal even without renegotiation, winning round the undecided – or indeed, those who support the status quo by default without really being aware of the true nature of the EU – requires a positive campaign. To quote Michael Fabricant again, any successful “out” campaign must “instil positive images of the sunlit uplands that will open to Britain as a prosperous global trading nation free from EU directives and dogma.” Polling by the Bruges group suggests that if offered a choice between EU membership and re-joining EFTA, voters swing round to EFTA by a margin of almost four to one. Even the immigration debate can be given a positive slant. Not only would cutting (or better still, stopping) immigration from the EU help preserve our beautiful countryside, as fewer houses would need to be built, but also, research suggests that for anyone who loves freedom and peace, it is desirable to live in a society as ethnically, linguistically and culturally as homogenous as possible. There are also economic benefits of independence, as has been explained by, among others, Professors Tim Congdon and Patrick Minford. An independent Britain really has an exciting future if a successful withdrawal strategy can be devised. Obviously, the negatives cannot and must not be swept under the carpet. Many people are still unaware that the EU’s objective is to create a European superstate and continued participation in the EU project will ultimately lead to the destruction of all that gives our country its distinctive features. However, to persuade our fellow-countrymen to leave, we must both show them just how much better life could be and assure them that there is a viable escape route. CIB has put on a number of seminars recently exploring the possibility of taking the “Norway Option” – combining membership of the EEA and EFTA. It is far from ideal as a long-term relationship between an independent UK and the EU, but it deals with all the fear about job losses and at a stroke, while relieving us of having to follow the diktats of the European Court of Justice, enabling us to strike out 80% of EU legislation and saving us money – a moot point given the sudden recent demand by the EU for £1.7 billion extra dosh from the hard-pressed UK taxpayer.

The bottom line is that there wil be no option in any referendum to vote for the status quo. As more member states join the Eurozone, those determined to keep their own currency will find themselves increasingly marginalised. Independence is by far the better of the only two real alternatives on offer, but sadly, such is the powerful hold of those supporting continued UK membership of the EU on the press and parliament that it will need the right strategy to win over hearts and minds for something that is ultimately nothing more than common sense.

The battle to leave the EU

United Kingdom map photoby Anthony Scholefield
Director, FUTURUS

In major political issues there are three battles; the battle to win the contest for ideas or assertions; the battle of aims, inclusive of aspirations, and the battle of plans. The electorate is influenced by the battle of assertions but it also responds to clear aims and plans.

As pointed out by Margaret Thatcher’s policy thinker John Hoskyns, Montgomery did not simply tell British soldiers on the eve of D-Day to make their way to Berlin – an aim; or to defeat the German army – an aspiration; he had a plan.

THE EURO REFERENDUM (that never was)

There was no doubt about the aspiration of those who wanted Britain to join the euro. Tony Blair thought that offering what was a ‘modern’, ‘international’, idea would be popular and he was slapdash about his planning. It would be generous to credit Blair with an aim – after all, he never expressed any interest in the entry rate for sterling to join the euro – he only had an aspiration.

Two things stopped a euro referendum taking place. The first was Gordon Brown’s caution. But, much more important, was the fact that Blair never had a plan to get Britain into the euro.

In retrospect, from his angle, Blair should have taken Ken Clarke’s advice, and that of his own pollster, Robert Worcester. They both advocated an enabling referendum, “I would have preferred the referendum to be held on the issues of principle with the timing and details having been left to the government and Parliament to decide”, said Ken Clarke.

Blair never seemed to understand that getting Britain into the euro was a complicated matter. Winning a referendum did not mean British entry into the euro. To enter, Britain had to re-enter the ERM, decide in conjunction with all the other EU governments, EU Parliament and the EU Commission what the entry rate would be: get the pound to that rate and keep it there; get a recommendation from the EU Commission that Britain had passed its convergence tests; change the Bank of England’s mandate and give the electorate their promised ‘final say’.

In short, Blair never realised he needed a plan and never planned.

As Roger Bootle wrote (Sunday Telegraph, 10th June 2001):
“Now consider what has to be done. First, the British authorities have to decide what an acceptable rate is and from the history showing the chart, you can see this is no easy task. Then they have to agree a rate within that range with our European partners. Then they have to get the pound to that level – and keep it there. And then they have to win a referendum.”

By contrast, while they had to fight the battle of ideas and assertions, the supporters of the pound had a very simple aim and a simple plan – to keep sterling.

THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM

There was always some doubt about what were the aims of the Scottish Nationalist Party, in particular whether Alex Salmond really wanted independence as opposed to greater devolution.

However, the SNP aim now is, supposedly, for independence and they have made numerous assertions about the benefits to Scotland. Like Blair, they are strong on aspiration but their aim is hazy.

Yet whenever the consequences of independence are discussed it is clear that the SNP rely on assertions and lack a plan. There is evidently no plan concerning the question of a separate currency, border controls on movement of people, entry and the terms of entry into the EU and many other issues. The SNP has acted as though their proposals will, and must, be accepted by others, psychologically revealing that it does not understand what independence really means.

Alex Salmond has proceeded on the basis that winning an enabling referendum will solve all his problems. But his lack of a plan will not only crucify the Scottish economy, especially the financial sector, if Scotland votes for independence, the same lack of a plan will reflect back to the electorate and undermine the argument he puts to the Scottish people so as to diminish his chances of winning.

So I confidently predict that, if Scotland votes for independence, that independence will not take place or, if persisted in, will lead to a Darien-type chaos.

There is no SNP plan for EU membership, no plan for defence links with NATO, no plans to take on debt or divide up oil revenues and, above all, no plan for a currency. In truth, the SNP has made various currency offers, a Scottish currency, joining the euro, and its current offer, often misunderstood, is:-
staying with sterling for the time being
(in itself a destabilising proposition for any depositor or investor)

The fact is that Scotland has a proportionately huge financial sector which is overwhelmingly dependent on English bank deposits, English pension funds and English investors. It is absolutely absurd, and would indeed breach their fiduciary duty, for any entity in England to keep its assets in another jurisdiction from where its liabilities are. The examples of sovereign default in Iceland and Cyprus are in front of them. Despite sharing a single currency, no German or French pension fund, Council, university or company, keeps its investment or cash in Portugal or Slovakia.

Of course, the idea of Scottish independence is doing damage to the Scottish financial sector already. Think of any English person considering a pension or long-term investment for many years. Offered a choice of an English or Scottish provider, the choice is obvious, and for directors and funds there is the fiduciary duty as well.

The supporters of the union have a clear and simple plan – to keep the union. The main fear of union supporters in England is that Westminster politicians will, in fact, agree to Scotland having, in some way, the benefits of independence without the responsibilities or rush forward with a ‘rescue plan’ for an independent Scotland at the expense of British taxpayers – as they have done for Ireland,

THE PROPOSED REFERENDUM OF 2017

With Cameron, his aims and aspirations seem to be purely political in the sense of domestic politics and party politics. He also wishes to be at the ‘top-table’. His remarks about “not banging on about Europe” show a remarkable ignorance of the power politics surrounding him as well as a deep reluctance to reflect on political realities. He lags far behind the electorate in understanding the importance of the EU and its growing power.

David Cameron has repeatedly said he has a plan. He does not have a plan. All he wants to do is to give the impression of some renegotiation. Rather he has an aspiration. His aspiration is to renegotiate and then present the results to the electorate and then get a YES vote to stay in a renegotiated EU.

WHAT IS THE ASPIRATION, THE AIM AND THE PLAN FOR WITHDRAWALISTS?

1) What are the possible exit strategies?
– UKIP wins a Westminster majority.
– A major Party converts to a withdrawal policy.
– A referendum is held on whether or not to remain in the UK.
– Britain is asked to leave by mutual agreement.
– Other countries decide to leave.
– ANOther.
Quite clearly the most likely and most immediate trigger is an in-out referendum.
2) To lose an in-out referendum would be catastrophic for the time being. To have such a referendum, unless the out vote is well ahead in the polls, would lead to such a loss, because of the status quo effect, whereby voters prefer not to risk change.
3) To win an in-out referendum, it is essential to present a simple, clear plan of exit which will work and can be demonstrated to work and which all withdrawalists can subscribe to. This would enhance a polling trend in favour of withdrawal.
4) Further, winning an in-out referendum will still leave us with a pro-EU Executive. The only way to compel such an Executive to actually work for withdrawal is to have a clear simple plan presented and endorsed in the referendum.
5) Without a clear plan presented at the referendum, the initiative will be handed to a pro-EU Executive which can be counted on to prevaricate and re-negotiate, working for a further referendum in due course.
6) The EFTA/EEA arrangement with some modifications for free movement has to be the way forward.
– Britain is itself already a sovereign signatory to the EEA agreement.
– It is on the shelf. The outline and details are already known.
– It is in accordance with the EU’s own procedures.
– It can be negotiated quickly.
– It takes all the business anti-withdrawal arguments out of the debate since Britain would stay in the Single Market.
– It does not disturb overseas investors and creditors.
– The safeguarding clauses (Articles 112 and 113) can be used to implement restrictions on immigration as Leichtenstein has done.
– It attains the objectives of sovereignty and takes us off the integration path, plus massively reduces costs.
– EEA countries are not bound to accept EU regulations and sit ‘upstream’ of EU decisions as sovereign negotiators at the WTO and other international bodies.

7) David Cameron on the Andrew Marr programme 11th May 2014 kept saying he had ‘a plan’ and only the Tories had ‘a plan’. This seems to me a sensible move by him (from his point of view) and could be a possible road testing of his next argument: “We have a plan and the eusceptics do not have one.”

8) In the 1975 referendum a whole page of the short ‘Yes’ leaflet was devoted to listing the various alternatives offered by the ‘No’ side to EU membership and ridiculing their contradictions. (see Appendix)

9) Some questions need answering:

a. It is asserted that the UK is a separate signatory to the EEA and thus would automatically stay in this if it left the EU. Is this watertight? Research indicates that this is an issue never considered by the EEA signatories.

b. Would the EFTA countries welcome UK membership?

c. What exactly is the position in the future with EU migrant workers in the UK? Is it suggested (as I would recommend) that work rights should be gradually withdrawn? Otherwise, as these migrants settle and acquire families, the capital cost of importing low income workers via the welfare state will be enormous and there will be diversions of our already meager capital investment to providing all the capital costs of migrants, massive house buildings, etc. (some of this has already happened of course).

d. We need a list of exactly what areas of policy determined by the EU will be returned to national control under EEA and what remains with the EU. To start with, the EEA membership removes a member from justice and home affairs, the common foreign policy, economic and monetary union, the customs union, the CAP, the CFP, regains control of trade policy with a seat at the WTO.

10) Gladstone: In one of his most famous speeches, on 10th August 1870, Gladstone laid down what needs to be done. This speech related to Britain’s position in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and extracts were quoted extensively by Sir Edward Grey in his speech of 3rd August 1914. It was cited by Asquith as determining Britain’s position on the Belgian Treaty in a letter to Bonar Law on 2nd August 1914, a day before Britain declared war:
“It brings the object in view within the sphere of the practicable and attainable instead of leaving it within the sphere of what might be desirable, but which might have been most difficult, under all the circumstances, to have realized.”

11) We are trying to win a referendum and win a referendum in such a way that a pro-EU executive must carry out the result. We are fighting the referendum with a plan with an instruction to the Executive. We are not in a competition for establishing the very best theoretical basis for Britain in a post-EU world, we are establishing a clear, tested, business-friendly plan which should take on the aura of ‘inevitability’, such as preceded the establishment of American and Indian Independence.

Indeed, if Britain indicated in a referendum that it wished to join the EFTA/EEA arrangements, it is highly likely that the EU institutions would regard this with some favour. It keeps Britain linked to the EU but removes it from all the political integration process and, therefore, enables the EU countries to proceed with ever-closer unions.

12) In 1975, the referendum leaflets put out by the pro-EU side also featured many comments by Commonwealth leaders supporting Britain’s entry into the EU. Some of these, especially in Australia, bitterly regret this.

We must be prepared, however, for intervention such as by the Pope and President Obama in the Scottish referendum campaign. These will be considerably muffled and ineffective if Britain proposes to stay in the EEA. It is doubtful if either of these two gentlemen would get involved in parsing the differences between the EU and the EEA.

13) The removal of the economic arguments will allow concentration on the sole issue: ‘Do we take back the right to rule ourselves which we have enjoyed for centuries?’ This was the call in the NO Campaign in 1975

View a copy of the 1975 leaflet here: Britain’s choice the alternatives (Ref Leaflet 1975)

Boris, Brexit and the City

Boris Johnson photoBoris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has recently made some upbeat statements about the prospects for the UK outside the EU. As with the statements of many senior Conservative politicians, there is the inevitable caveat. His preference is still for the UK to renegotiate its membership terms and remain a member of the EU. If such a renegotiation were to be successful, Johnson would be campaigning for us to stay in. However, if not, then, we would be better off out. In his words, “we have nothing to be afraid of in going for an alternative future, a Britain open not just to the rest of Europe but to the world, where we have historic ties and markets with vast potential.”

It would be easy to dismiss these words as posturing, but there is some substance behind the Mayor’s remarks. His senior economics advisor, Gerard Lyons, has just produced a report evaluating the prospects of different political scenarios for the City of London and its conclusions are most interesting.

Currently, London’s economy is worth £350 billion per year. If Brexit were handles badly, the report suggests the London economy would only grow to £430 billion by 2034, a tiny increase over 20 years, and see a shedding of about 1.2 million jobs. If we left on amicable terms with outward-looking policies, then the London economy would grow to £615 billion and see an additional 900,000 jobs created over the next 20 years. Dr Lyons suggests membership of EFTA as a possible option, but his calculations are based on the assumption that’s we will be outside the EEA – i.e., he is not proposing we take the “Norway Option”. Staying in on the present terms would, according to the report, be better than a bungled exit as an extra 200,000 jobs wold be created but the preferred scenario would be for the UK to remain in a reformed EU, which would see London’s economy grow to £640 billion with one million jobs being created.

So the difference for London between a well-handled Brexit and the UK remaining within a reformed EU amounts to 10% of the projected job growth and about 9% of GDP growth. This, of course, assumes that the EU will reform, which looks to be a bit of a long shot. The report also only considers London, which is only one part of the UK economy albeit a very important one. In 2011, the financial services industry, which is largely situated in the City of London, amounted to 9.6% of UK GDP.

However, even if Mr Lyons’ predictions are correct, there are plenty of other factors which would tip the balance in favour of withdrawal. Staying within a reformed EU would still leave us forced to accept free movement of people, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the impotence of our Parliament to have the ultimate say in matters of legislation, Even if the regulatory burden were to be reduced, the direct costs of EU membership are unlikely to fall below £10 billion per year. Multiply this conservative estimate by 20 to reflect the timescale envisaged in Mr. Lyons’ report and the resulting savings for the UK as a whole from withdrawal would be eight times the supposed reduction income growth for London resulting from withdrawal rather than staying in a reformed EU, and this is without taking other drains on the economy such as the CAP and the CFP into account.

So if we can believe Dr Lyons, Boris Johnson is quite right to say that we have nothing to be afraid of life outside the EU. Indeed, the economic prospects look pretty rosy.

Photo by BackBoris2012

The reasons why they want us to stay are the same reasons why we should leave

The prospects of “Brexit” are worrying the leaders of some of the other 27 member states. Benoît Cœuré, a senior official at the European Central Bank, said that UK withdrawal would create an “enormous shock” to the bloc that would be “very difficult to manage” and David Cameron’s nemesis, Jean-Claude Juncker, stated that he does “not want the EU without Britain”.

Why do they want us to stay? After all, we’ve been throwing spanner after spanner in the federalist works for some 40 years now. No UK government has ever been enthusiastic about either a common EU defence policy or harmonising tax rates across the member states. We opted out of the euro, Schengen and imposing VAT on food, among other things. In fact, most of the population really just want a trading relationship. Sharing our sovereignty does not appeal. Wouldn’t the other member states really be better off if they pursued their federalist dream without us?

Well, for starters the EU budget would suffer if we left. We have been net contributors to the budget in every year bar one since joining the EEC in 1973. The EU-funded reconstruction of Eastern Europe’s infrastructure would not be able to proceed so quickly without the contribution of UK taxpayers – in other words, people like you and me.

It’s not only our money they want – it’s our fish. Our coastal waters, especially the North Sea, were among the best fishing grounds in Europe. No wonder that the Spanish, with the largest fishing fleet in the EU, were keen to take advantage of the Common Fisheries Policy when they joined the EU in January 1986.

Then there’s the role that the UK has played in reducing trade barriers and encouraging financial discipline. We are also seen as a counterbalance to the historical dominance of the Franco-German axis. The open economies of Eastern Europe view us as an ally against the more protectionist nations such as France. Were we to leave, there are fears that the EU would retreat into inward-looking protectionism. Jens Weidmann, the president of Germany’s Bundesbank, recently said, “If Britain continues to make its voice heard in Europe, I am confident that the union will become more outward-looking, open and prosperous for that.”

But these very same reasons the other members want us to stay are precisely why we should leave. Our current direct contribution to EU funds may only amount to £750 per household for the year, but how many hard-pressed families would not rather have an extra £15 in their pockets to help with their ever-increasing food and energy bills? Then, there’s the damaging effects of the Common Fisheries Policy both on the UK fishing industry, which shrank in size by one third in the decade to 2005 alone, and on the viability of fish stocks in our territorial waters, which have suffered considerably thanks to over-fishing by the Spanish in particular and the damaging policy of quotas, which has resulted in many fish being dumped dead back into the waters.

Turning to the checks and balances between the various member states, maybe the EU would become more protectionist if we left. Maybe Club Med would be more likely to rise up against German-imposed austerity. However, the bottom line of trying to reach consensus among such a diverse group of nations is that what you end up with in reality is compromise. Free from having to agree a common position with the rest of the EU, our leaders could once again make decisions that were in the interest of the British people who, after all, are the people who elect them to office in the first place.

If our departure precipitates a collapse of the EU, it will be messy but in the longer term, a blessing for the entire continent. The whole project is fatally flawed and, like other enforced political unions in the past, may well end in tears. On the other hand, if, against the odds the EU is still in existence in fifty years’ time, it will have advanced into the federal superstate that has always been the dream of its staunchest supporters. For all the supposed benefits of having the UK on board, we would have continued to remain a formidable obstacle to this federalist agenda.

So whatever the future of the European project, it will be better for the rest of the EU as well as for us if we go our separate ways.

A Foreign Secretary who supports withdrawal from the EU?

David Cameron’s recent reshuffle saw Philip Hammond replace William Hague as Foreign Secretary. Since resigning as party leader following the disastrous flop of the half-heartedly eurosceptic Conservative General Election campaign in 2001, Hague has given up all pretentions at euroscepticism. He has appeared in print on a number of occasions supporting Turkish EU membership – a disastrous move that would allow over 80 million people the right to come to the UK – and was quick to snuff out as “unrealistic” the demands of 94 Conservative backbenchers for our Parliament to have the power to reject EU legislation.

Hammond, then, is a definite improvement on his predecessor, for last year, he stated that if presented with a choice between withdrawal and EU membership on its current terms, he would vote to leave. Following his recent appointment, he was asked if his views had changed since then. He replied that the current relationship between our country and the EU is “simply not acceptable” and that he would still vote to leave if there was no significant return of powers to Westminster.

So this all sounds like good news, especially as it is inconceivable that he made this statement without clearance from No. 10. However, before we get too excited, there are a couple of very serious caveats. Firstly, this reshuffle comes less than a year before the General election. If the Conservatives win, will Mr Hammond remain in his post? It is widely believed that George Osborne would like to take over as Foreign Secretary – a man who has yet to make a statement that he would ever support withdrawal. Could it therefore be that Hammond’s appointment is mere window dressing? – a confidence trick to lure UKIP voters back to the Tories next year? Given “Cast Iron Dave’s” slippery reputation, this cannot be ruled out, especially given that the reshuffle also saw the removal of two convinced eurosceptics – the Environment Secretary Owen Patterson and Welsh Secretary David Jones.

Secondly, even if Mr Hammond did continue in his post in the event of a Conservative election victory next year, would the scope of renegotiations required to satisfy him be the same as those demanded by the many voters who backed UKIP in last May’s European Parliamentary elections? Where does he stand on restricting free movement of people, for example? Or the total repatriation of justice and home affairs to our judiciary? Did he tacitly support the 94 backbenchers who wanted our parliament to regain power to block EU legislation which was damaging to the UK’s interests? We need to know the answers to these questions before getting too excited.